Sunday, March 7, 2010

Coyote Problem Not Going Away

Residents around Humber Bay Park say they’re overrun with coyotes and are howling mad the city won’t do anything about it, warning that it’s only a matter of time before a child is attacked.

Julie Morrissey literally walks softly but carries a big stick when she takes her Yorkshire terrier Fifer for a walk outside her Lakeshore Blvd. W. condo and around Humber Bay park.

The stick, along with a whistle and flashlight, are at the ready for Morrissey to use to scare or even fight off one of the coyotes that turn up almost on a daily basis in the small patches of parkland along the boardwalk.

“They don’t seem to have any fear anymore,” she told the Sunday Sun this week. “I look like an idiot when I go for a walk but you know what, I don’t care.

“I think it’s just a matter of time before something happens and hopefully it’s not a child.”

For Morrissey the coyote sightings started about two years ago and over time they have crept closer and closer, appearing no more than metres from her and her neighbours and not making any attempt to hide from humans.

“This year they’ve really come out,” she said, adding the coyotes have been spotted at all times of the day and night and even when residents have tried to scare away those sitting on paths, they don’t run off.

So far Fifer — who is as small as the Maltese dog snatched off a leash by a coyote in north Pickering earlier this week — hasn’t been attacked by the coyotes.

But Morrissey isn’t sure how long it will be before the growingly brazen coyotes attack a dog or even a small child playing in Humber Bay Promenade Park.

While she understands wildlife has a place in the city, she wants city officials to take the problem seriously.

Morrissey said if the city is going to allow development that encroaches onto coyote habitat and disrupts the wildlife, it should take measures to ensure humans and coyotes don’t come into conflict.

“You expect to see wildlife in your park,” Morrissey said. “You don’t want it at your back gate.”

Neighbour Claire Normandeau said there is something “seriously wrong” with the brazenness of the coyote population and the city’s non-response.

Like Morrissey, Normandeau believes it is only a matter of time before a person is attacked.

“I do not feel safe and I am concerned for not only myself but my friends, their children, the neighbourhood and our pets,” she said.

Normandeau said she can’t recall the coyotes being a problem before a strip mall was torn down across the street and condo construction started at Lakeshore and West Humber Rd.

“The city is trying to take the easy way out by blaming it on people who feed the wild animals,” she said.

“We’ve taken over their habitat and it’s expected for them to roam among us but I don’t believe we are meant to live together. They are wild animals. Someone will get hurt.”

Earlier this week Normandeau wrote to local Councillor Mark Grimes to ask what the city was doing about the coyote problem.

Grimes’ staff wrote back a lengthy e-mail reminding her not to feed the coyotes and offering advice on what to do if you encounter one.

“While there is not much we can do as far as relocating or trapping the coyotes, we can educate the public on how to respond if they see a coyote and what precautions they need to take,” Grimes’ assistant Katia Ousovich stated.

She ended the note by encouraging Normandeau to report any sightings or serious encounters with coyotes to Toronto Animal Services.

Ministry of Natural Resources wildlife biologist John Pisapio stressed in an interview Wednesday that most coyote incidents in the province involve sightings not attacks.

In fact, only one person has been nipped by a coyote in recent years and in almost all cases where a coyote attacks a small pet, it is usually because the animal has become used to being fed by humans either directly or indirectly.

Pisapio adds that most coyotes, even urban ones, are normally shy and skittish and keep a “very low profile.”

Along the boardwalk Friday, MNR assurances were cold comfort to dogwalker Sandra Johnson.

She said everyone who frequents the stretch of shore on a regular basis has a coyote encounter story.

Johnson — who has been followed by a coyote before — sees the varmints at least two times a week and has been on alert since two girls walking their two dogs nearby were circled by coyotes late last month.

“They’re very brazen,” Johnson said. “You don’t want to go out at night alone.

“We’re getting overrun with them.”

**Taken from the Toronto Sun